Church Secrets, Part 1

note: this post contains some names that were changed to protect the people mentioned.  Any name with an asterisk [*] next to it has been changed.

14102056_1408508332493493_1744223736_nYou can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking up

Nothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
And they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if you

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

Innocence, your history of silence
Won’t do you any good
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?
Brave, Sara Bareilles

“We don’t remember what they told us years ago.  Stop asking people.  You don’t want to start gossiping.”  These are the messages I received from my parents and others when I started asking questions about a former church of mine, a small conservative reformed denomination (this clarification was always stressed, after all, we wouldn’t want people thinking we are part of our sister denomination, who were more liberal).  Why all but one deacon and his family had left all those years ago.  Why so many of my friends had switched churches.  Why it still hurt and was unresolved.  I needed to know.  I could no longer let this unknown wound hurt me with no resolution or healing in sight.

So I started digging.  This blog series (Church Secrets) will share some of the things I learned along the way.  The reasons why I decided to leave my church.  The reasons why I call it my ex-church instead of one of my former churches.  The reasons why I currently do not attend church and struggle to trust any leaders in church.

It was November 2014.  I went home early for Thanksgiving break so that I could see my counselor for a special 2 hour session to work through a large chunk of my major bad relationship (the one with the 40+ year old man online).  I also got to visit some of my friends.  Samantha*, one of my friends who had previously been a part of my church, started talking to me about what had happened.  I thought she might know more because she and her family were close friends with some of the deacons and their families.

It had been over two years since Samantha and her family had left the church.  A couple weeks before I visited them, they received a printed letter from the church.  I’m going to quote the parts particularly relevant to this post below (click here to read the full letter).  Pay close attention to the last paragraph in particular.

You may be worshipping with another Bible-believing church.  If so, though we hate to lose you, please inform us so we can formally transfer your membership, or if you have already joined another body, please let us know so that we can remove you from the rolls.  We wish you nothing but God’s greatest blessings on you and all you do.

The writer of Hebrews tells us “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another…” We hope that we can be a church that does that for you.  If you are not currently worshipping with another church, in love we urge you to either return to us (again, we’d love to have you back!) or find another part of Christ’s body to affiliate with where God’s Word is proclaimed, the Gospel is offered to sinners, the sacraments are given, and there is godly oversight by church leadership.

If you chose neither of these routes, the elders of our church will be forced to remove your name from our rolls, and we would consider you to have left the Church Universal and to not be covered by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ.

I was shocked.  I thought that excommunication ended hundreds of years ago.  But no.  It still goes on today.  It went on at MY church.  My own pastor and elders approved of this.  And all you had to do was either not attend any church at all (because clearly all the sermons about not adding anything to the gospel were lies) or not attending a church that they approve of means you are not saved.  What the actual fuck.

Yes.  This actually happened.  The leaders who I trusted and looked up to for over ten years were writing letters to former members informing them that they would treat them as unbelievers if they didn’t meet the right requirements.

Just thinking about this and re-reading everything over the last two days has kept me up until 6 am the other day.  It’s been over a year now since I left my ex-church, and I’m finally able to start sharing some of the things that motivated me to leave.  In future parts of this series I will be sharing: e-mails I received from the pastor when he learned that I was talking to former church members, a conversation I had regarding a former church ministry/outreach, a letter that was sent to all the members regarding a specific family who left, and more.

Part 2

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So Tired

img_2374I’m not okay. I have depression and anxiety. People from back home ask me (or they ask my siblings/family) how I’m doing all the time. I usually say fine, or I’m hanging in there, or I’ll be writing an update soon. Well now is as good a time as any to write an update.
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My new home is beautiful and I love all the nature and trees and hills. ^_^  And I have a kitten and a boyfriend who are both amazing and whom I love dearly.
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Working in the food industry is definitely not what I want to do long term, and it’s very exhausting for an introvert (even though I love people). My coworkers are great and I (usually) enjoy working with them to serve our guests and keep our restaurant clean. Still super exhausted at the end of every shift.
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I dropped out of college (Moody Bible Institute) because I could no longer handle the culture there. If I stayed one more year I would be an atheist (not a diss at atheists, btw… just not something I’d like to believe right now). Moody was literally killing my faith day by day – both the ideologies and theologies taught, and the ones lived out by the majority of the student body. The racism and sexism didn’t help things. I could no longer go to PCM (Public Christian Ministry) every week and hear how we needed to tie the gospel into every single English lesson. I wanted to help people learn English, I did not want to proselytize them at every turn. I wanted to just love people and give/share what I had with them that they could use. And I wanted to learn from others. With no underlying motivation of converting everyone and saving lost souls.
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Can I just fucking love people?? What is so wrong with that?
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I did not want to hear another lesson on how women must submit, but that complimentarianism was actually equal, just with two distinct roles. Or how you needed to read your Bible every day and if you did, you would have fewer struggles with depression, or sleep issues, or whatever you happened to be dealing with. Just have enough faith. I.E. Try harder, you’re clearly not trying hard enough. Or how everyone was going to hell unless they believed the correct things. Or hear another friend receive negative comments for studying theology. Or see other girls shamed for how they chose to dress or act. Or watch other denominations bashed – especially Catholicism. Or hear all the negative comments about anyone who tried to speak up about racism (because “talking about it is making it worse, it’s not an issue here” – so much white privilege that we were literally drowning in it).
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Or having a guy make inappropriate comments, but when confronted, he said “Oh, I’m sorry you remember that. I would never do that.” And other similar things (such as stalking). Or hearing from a friend that the Dean dismissed his/her report of stalking to her face and asked her questions that pointed the blame solely onto him/her.
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I’m so so tired. Of everything. I’m tired of fighting for people’s rights. It’s exhausting. And I’m not even the one facing most of the judgment/abuse, I can’t imagine how hard it is to live with that day-to-day. The one I face is sexism, which is hard enough (as a woman), but I can’t imagine coupling that with racism or any other -ism. To my friends who do, I’m proud of you. Keep living and being you.:) I support you, even when I’m exhausted and can’t do much more than send you love.
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I’m tired of having to process my entire childhood because of the issues I’m now facing as an adult. And having to re-figure out what I believe about just about everything. I’m tired of gaslighting and speaking down to I received from my former pastor. I’m tired of the secrets, of all the hiding, all the shame. All the judging. I’m tired of abuse – spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, etc.
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I was in two abusive relationships online when I was a minor (both with much older men) and it has greatly impacted me. Yes, I’m seeing a counselor and have in the past, but it still hurts and is going to take more work/healing. It wasn’t a “stumbling block”. It was abuse.
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This is part of why I am so passionate about fighting the mentality that to protect our kids, we must literally sequester them off from society and every danger that is out there. It’s completely ineffective. I was extremely sheltered and yet I still managed to be abused by two men. And find pornography/erotica (I tend to lump them both together under the word pornography).
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I don’t post the articles that I do (on my Facebook wall) without thought. I don’t post them to punish or hurt my parents (or other homeschooling/fundy (i.e. fundamental) parents). I share them because I was extremely hurt by the ideas encompassing those worldviews and I don’t want anyone else to experience what I have. And because every day I have the worry of my siblings over me. I’m not their parents, but they are growing up in the same things I did. I really wish I could make it better for them. But I can’t. And it sucks. I love them a lot and would do almost anything to make life better for them now so they won’t struggle like I am when they are older.
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But I had to move out. I had to get away for my own sanity and healing. And it was really hard. It is really hard. My youngest siblings are not even ten yet. They don’t understand why I left. They also don’t understand why I left their home church over the summer. They would ask me every week if I was going to come to church with them. And be sad when I said no. I can’t go back to that church ever. I’ll post more about it later.
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I was heartbroken when I spoke with my mom over spring break and found out that she did not see any practical purpose to explaining/talking about sexuality with my siblings who are in their teens/pre-teens. At least I had a two minute talk (that explained nothing, but hey, she sort of tried). She doesn’t understand the importance of talking about sex, or boundaries or safe sex (condoms, birth control, etc.). She said that they don’t need to know this information until they are ready to get married (i.e. the only time sex is socially allowed in fundamentalism).
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I’m tired of having to consciously work through my boundaries every single day because my family didn’t have healthy ones. I remember they would try to hug my sister whenever she got angry. I could avoid them because I’d realize when they were about to try, but she usually didn’t. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I do not want to be hugged (or touched) when I’m angry. It does not help calm me down or improve the situation or relationships in question.
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Why weren’t we taught to say no? Why was every little detail decided for us? I could have learned to say no at home. I should have. Saying no is a healthy part of growing up and recognizing what is and isn’t yours.
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My door didn’t have a lock on it. It had a temporary lock for a couple of months, but it was ineffective at best, and destroyed by a neighborhood child when he was playing one day. Children need privacy and space.
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Children need adults who will treat them like people and give them environments to grow and learn in (and yes, sometimes get hurt). They need parents who walk along side of them, not build a wall around them. They are going to face challenges and dangerous situations in life. All of us do/will eventually. Prepare them. Don’t shelter them. Give them a safe place to work through things at home. My home isn’t safe. I never want to go back.
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Living on my own is really really really friggin’ hard. Working for $8 an hour (plus tips) sucks. Paying rent and food leaves me with little to no money left to save. And then the doctor bills for my required visits to get my anti-depressants.  I’m trying to apply for food stamps which I find ironic because my family spoke down of government aid because obviously most people were out to abuse the system. -_- Because clearly asking for help to pay for food bills when you have almost no money is a way to steal people’s money.
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I was taught via shame and fear my whole life. I’ve always loved others, but now I’m trying to learn how to love myself. It’s hard.😦 I want to love myself now. To be healed now. To be able to move on and never have to work through this stuff again. But I can’t.
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I want to know how to read myself well. When people ask me how I’m doing or if I’m okay I want to know how to answer. I don’t want to say “I don’t know” one more time because I know something is wrong but I literally can’t pinpoint it. I was told to not cry when I was spanked. I very quickly learned to hide my emotions deeply due to that and other things said/done. I’m in a lot of pain, but I hide it well. Sometimes I don’t even see it. Other times I’m lying on my bed crying uncontrollably.
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I want to be able to tell my boyfriend that I’m not upset with him or his sexuality. But that I want to feel the way he does when he orgasms. I’ve never felt that. I don’t know how. I don’t know how to feel aroused after the initial feelings of excitement. I know my body is doing what it’s supposed to do (i.e. secreting fluid and stuff), but my brain is completely shut down from strong emotions like pleasure. I’m tired.
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I’m happy when my boyfriend is happy. ^^ In fact, making people happy is a main motivator for me in life. But part of me so deeply longs to feel the same way I know he is feeling. And I don’t know how to. And I’m beginning to think I may never. And maybe I need to be okay with that.
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I’m tired of being sensitive. I want to be able to watch things like Game of Thrones, and Supernatural, and Jurassic Park with my boyfriend and roommate and friends. But I can’t. I shut down. My emotions shut off. And they hit me later. And it hurts so bad. I hurt for others.  I also feel others’ joy which is nice.:)  If I’m honest, I wouldn’t ever give up my sensitivity.  I just sometimes wish that I could do things others who are less sensitive can do.
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I’m tired of being triggered at rape/abuse scenes. Panic attacks suck. Especially since I don’t even know why it’s triggering to me (yet). I think I may be dealing with repressed childhood trauma or abuse, but I don’t know yet.
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There’s so much I don’t know.
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I want to be able to effortlessly just “chill” with a group of my peers. But there is no role in chilling. It’s just being yourself. And everything I did in my childhood involved a role. I’m great with roles. But when those are turned off, I do not know how to act, what to do or what to say. This is something I wish I had learned through normal unscripted interactions in my childhood. But I didn’t have many of those, so I’m socially awkward. I love when I make people laugh (especially with/at something funny I do/say), but I deeply wish I could fit in with my peers (still being my weird self, but minus the obvious lack of social-peer skills).
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When you’re homeschooled, you are told that it’s so amazing that you learn how to interact with adults and children of all ages. And yes, that’s cool. But when you don’t learn to interact with your own age group, I’m not sure that it’s a fair trade off. And when you are forced to be super mature all the time and act like a mini-adult, you lose some of your precious childhood.
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*breathes* Wow, that’s a lot. And there’s so much more I want to say. But I’m tired. And so I will leave this here for you. I love you guys and I hope that we can all find healing from whatever things we are facing each day.
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P.S. I’m also tired of treating others like they are inherently bad and judging myself at every move “am I doing this selfishly?  I couldn’t possibly be doing this with not bad underlying motivation because I’m desperately wicked and sinful.”  Everything had to be a sin.  And it sucked.  It gives you no space to be proud of yourself (being prideful is a sin).  No space to be yourself and just share who you are with others.  I couldn’t see how kind and caring I was towards others, because if I did, then I’d become proud of myself.  And that was bad.

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**I originally wrote this as a Facebook post, but I decided I couldn’t post it because  I’m not yet ready to share a lot of this information with the whole world under my real name.  I really want to.  But I’d have to emotionally deal with the responses I’d get from friends and family, and I don’t have the energy necessary to do that yet.  Also people would want to know more and would argue against many of the things I said.  So that’s why this is written a bit differently than my other blog posts.**